Since I want to discuss the different basic shotgun action types and the diffent types of choking tubes for a shotgun, I guess I should start off with the shotgun action types, then move on to shot pattern, and transition the patterns into the purpose of choking tubes in your barrel.
The common action types for a shotgun are break, pump, and semi-auto. There are side-by-side and over-and-under double barrel shotguns, but these are barrel types, not really the reloading action. There are shotguns with lever-action and bolt-action. These are less common. Bolt action isn’t being produced anymore that I know, and there aren’t many lever action shotguns being produced. The old levers are being bought up, due to a refounded novelty of it.
Break-Action: Explains itself. The barrel breaks apart from the stock, so you can place a new shell in the barrel. Very simple in design, the break-action has very few problems, but has the disadvantage of a single shot. It is great for training since they are usually cheap, and teach you to make every shot count. They also usually have MANY barrels available for the same gun, allowing for many different options. You can have one gun with a 12, 16, and 20 ga barrel. As long as you have the time to swap barrels, you have a new weapon. Alot of times, the interchangeable barrels are held by a single bolt or screw.
Lever and Bolt Action: These are less common in shotguns than they are in rifles. The lever with a bit of practice can be just as fast as a pump shotgun. The bolt is maybe a little slower, but can still be done very quickly. The advantage of the bolt is the simple design making jamming very low and reliablity high.
Pump-Action: This is by far my favorite. It is quick in the field, holds multiple shots for a possible follow-up shot, and is a fairly reliable action. There are very few, if any, bad pumps on the market today. It also has a very distinct sound to it. This is a great thing to have at home with some #4 buckshot in it. Even if you are willing to defend your home, it is better to get rid of the danger without force. Once the person hears the sound, they know what it is, and many times, will tuck tail and run. If they don’t, then the chance is that you will end up using force because that guy has nothing to live for or is crazy!
Semi-Auto: This is a double-edged sword. It is a faster action than a pump, but I won’t say that it is much faster. I think it is a good self-defense action, and a great hunting action. The only real problem I have with the semi-auto is that people that haven’t practiced will attempt to get more rounds off, instead of purposfully, and correctly aiming the gun for every single shot. The pump is a better “training” shotgun for this. Many people that use semis, end up thowing extra money down range needlessly.
Hopefully, you understand the basic actions, so I can move on to shot patterns and chokes.
Patterns are a little misunderstood today. Everyone wants to measure them on the two-dimension spread that is seen on paper. This is fine, if you never shoot at moving targets where you will be leading the shot. What people don’t measure as much is the third dimension, the distance traveled of each pellet. In the shell, some pellets are up front, and get pushed by the ones behind it. Others are in the back and are placing some of their momentum or velocity into the pellets in front of them. There is also minor deformation during the shooting (and choking if you are doing so). So this creates different speeds which, in turn, creates a dispersing of the bullets in the direction of travel.
A way of looking at it is that you are shooting a cloud of the pellets. Once the cloud comes out of the barrel, it begins to spread slightly. Over a given distance the cloud will grow outward in all directions, but become less dense (the fog becomes thinner). This cloud actually will grow more in the direction of travel than the outward spread we can easily measure.
When you are leading a shot, you are basically trying to place a high velocity cloud in a spot where the animal will impact it at just the right time.
Choke is used to gradually transition from the barrel diameter to some smaller diameter. This will bring the pellets into a much denser area, which will in turn give a much denser patters throughout the entire range. The further the choke, the denser the pattern, for the most part, which is why there are so many different types of chokes and why you will see people gravitate to a particular choke for a certain type of game.
When choosing the choke, you will have to decide between the density of the shot cloud, or the ease of the shot. If you choke too tight the shot will be much harder to achieve, and on the other side, not enough choke will give you a pattern that is way to dispersed to give you a good impact area and will actually lessen the chance of a lethal blow.
The types of chokes are Cylinder, Skeet, Improved Cylinder, Light Modified, Modified, Improved Modified, Light Full, Full, Extra Full, and Super Full. Details of each one:
One thing you should consider is that different chokes will act differently on your patterns. If you see a huge hole in your pattern, you may consider a different choke brand. It will be different for everyone.
Let me head back to the pattern now with a quick note: If you are using steel or tungsten, you will have a different pattern and velocities, so you will have to account for this. You can’t lead as much with steel as you would with lead because it is lighter and therefor, faster.
Enter the challenge for: